Alaska Kingfishers Lodge on the Nushagak River
Alaska Kingfishers is Bearclaw Lodge’s companion property on the Nushagak River. Guests from Bearclaw Lodge can fly on a short, 45-minute float plane ride to Alaska Kingfishers. The tent camp is a full service fishing camp that caters to anglers from around the world looking to target king salmon, chum salmon and silver salmon.
The Nushagak River, one of the longest rivers in the state, is universally believed to be the most prolific king salmon river in Alaska. In an average year, more than 100,000 kings will enter the system. Adult king salmon on the Nush average about 20 pounds, with 30 pounders being regularly caught and an occasional larger one each year tipping the scales at 40 and even 50 pounds. These fish are incredibly strong, should be on every freshwater anglers bucket list, and are amazing to catch. After catching your limit, anglers are allowed to catch-and-release. Beginning June 20th, the camp is open for king salmon anglers, who can also catch chum salmon and sockeye salmon. Chum, aka dog salmon, are the second largest salmon species to kings and are aggressive biters with an indomitable will. Chum numbers are strong on the Nushagak River, and anglers can expect to catch chums mixed in with the kings. Sockeye salmon numbers on the Nushagak are also very high, so anglers can also mix in some sockeye angling when coming to the Nushagak during king season.
Nushagak River salmon fishing is world class.
Fishing on the Nushagak River
King salmon angling is primarily done from boats, as the Nushagak is a broad, swift river. Alaska Kingfishers has seven, 20 to 23-foot boats, most of them Alumaweld, and a 20-foot Smokercraft to fish the Nushagak. The Alumaweld boats hold four anglers and a guide, and are wide and stable to allow anglers to move around as they fight king salmon. The Smokercraft is dedicated to fly anglers, and accommodates two anglers and a guide. Alaska Kingfisher’s prime location in the lower river means that anglers don’t need to travel far to find chrome-bright salmon. And with no road access to the Nushagak River, angling pressure is limited to those that flyout or boat in from Dillingham.
King Salmon Fishing
Conventional angling is the most common practice on the Nushagak. Here are some common techniques employed by the expert guides for catching king salmon:
Pulling plugs like Luhr-Jensen Kwikfish and Storm Wiggle Warts
Back bouncing bait
Boondogging bait, also known as dragging
Bobber dogging bait
Float fishing bait or jigs
Backtrolling and downtrolling spinners
All gear and tackle is included in your trip. But anglers are welcome to bring their own gear. Here’s the rundown on appropriate conventional gear for king salmon anglers:
Rods should be rated 15 to 30-pound class and above. Anglers use both bait casting and spinning rods, with the edge going to bait casting. Rods should have a firm backbone and soft tip to detect strikes and allow kings to grab lures or bait and turn before feeling resistance.
Reels should have extremely strong drags, and the capacity to hold at least 200 yards of 20-pound-test monofilament. Monofilament will stretch and give you some forgiveness when that big king salmon changes direction at high speeds.
Line should be high-quality monofilament with abrasion resistance.
Fly Fishing for King Salmon
Fly anglers will also do well, and encounter a range of scenarios. Here’s a breakdown on what you might need to catch king salmon on the fly on the Nushagak River:
Sockeye Salmon Fishing
Sockeye anglers can use slightly lighter gear than they would use for chums, or can definitely get away with the same setup. Here’s a rundown:
Conventional rods should be rated 10 to 15-pound class, fly rods 6 to 8-weight.
Reels should have strong smooth drags and plenty of capacity for 150 yards of 15-pound-test line or backing.
Sockeye salmon are plankton eaters, so small, sparse flies are commonly used by both conventional and fly anglers.
Chum Salmon Fishing
Anglers will also be able to catch chum salmon and sockeye salmon during the king run. Chum salmon are aggressive biters, hard fighters and are as tough a fish as you will find. They range from 6 to 20 pounds in the Nushagak River. Here’s breakdown on chum gear:
Silver Salmon Fishing
Silver salmon anglers can come similarly equipped as chum salmon anglers. Silvers can be finicky biters and go from biting everything presented to being sulky and tight-lipped. With that in mind, a wide range of both flashy and muted flies and lures should be in the tackle box while on the Nushagak River.
Visitors who overnight at Alaska Kingfishers enjoy two-person tents with wooden floors and beds with linen. The camp is powered by a generator, and has running water, flushing toilets and shower facilities. The dining tent is large and comfortable and offers delicious home cooked meals. During silver season, the camp is broken down for the year, but boats remain in place so that flyout anglers from Bearclaw Lodge can still fish for silvers on the Nushagak River.
What To Expect
A typical day at Alaska Kingfishers looks like this:
Coffee on by 6 am, breakfast at 8.
Fish hard until lunch at noon. We do not come back to the camp for lunch unless the guests have requested to do so. After breakfast, we have a lunch spread for guests to make their own lunch just the way they like it and take with them on the boat. Guests will eat lunch in the field.
Guests will fish until 6 pm, dinner is at 7 pm.
We do not offer any guided night fishing after dinner, however if you still just can’t get enough, you can fish from the bank at camp. Options include plunking bait for kings, using a float and jig to target chum, tossing spinners or spoons for chum, or fly fishing for chum, which typically means swinging streamers.